victimised

liability in the event of dog trainer being bitten by a dog

5 posts in this topic

I am a dog trainer. I took a dog to train for general obedience and only when I had put it in my car did the owners admit that it had previously bitten a stranger in the street. I was making good progress with the dog but nine days into the training it bit me. I requested that the owner pay for the medical expenses solely and also enquired if they had insurance. I have not received a response to my letter. The incident took place in Suffolk County, NY. I have trainer's insurance but it proved not to cover personal injury only third party liability. There was no discussion with the owner regarding insurance or liability in the event of a bite prior to the incident. Is the owner liable for my medical espenses?

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I took a dog to train for general obedience and only when I had put it in my car did the owners admit that it had previously bitten a stranger in the street.

At which point you could have asked the owners to remove the dog and driven away. By not doing so, you confronted a known risk.

I was making good progress with the dog but nine days into the training it bit me. I requested that the owner pay for the medical expenses solely and also enquired if they had insurance. I have not received a response to my letter.

Was the dog in your custody exclusively during this training? In other words, when you picked up the dog, did it remain in your custody until after the biting incident, or did you return the dog to the owners each day and pick it up again the next day?

Did you have any sort of written agreement with the owners? If the way you operate is to pick up the dog up and keep it in your custody for over a week, I cannot imagine that you would do something like that without a written contract. If there is a written contract, does it contain any provision relating to liability for bites? Don't you have your own medical insurance?

Is the owner liable for my medical espenses?

Subject to your clarification of the facts, I am HIGHLY skeptical that you have a viable claim. Where did the dog bite you? How much are/were your medical bills? Do you have any other damages? Small claims court might be a viable option since it is (or should be) inexpensive and simple, and the worst thing that might happen would be that you get nothing.

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Thankyou for responding. The dog remained with me during the training period and did not return to owners until after biting incident. No, I do not require the signing of contracts when I take custody of a dog. I have a "worry free" dog trainer's insurance package which claimed to be all I would need for peace of mind. After this incident I realised it did not cover personal injury to me and is quite inadequate in many respects. I don't have medical insurance. The bite to the hand resulted in a serious puncture wound which necessitated a five day stay in hospital. the bills came to $26k. Since I have no insurance these have been reduced to $3,700. I didn't take on any new "trainees" for six weeks. I had a very nasty reaction to the antibiotics they gave me and experienced a considerable amount of pain for sometime. I realise that there may be an argument for shared liability here but can't imagine that the burden of cost should be mine entirely.

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First of all, I strongly suggest a review of your insurance coverage, which it sounds like you've already done or are doing. Second, I suggest you confer with a local attorney about an appropriate written contract. Because you take custody of the dogs for long periods of time, there are all sorts of things that might come up. I'm also guessing that the sorts of people who engage someone like you are not run of the mill persons who own mutts adopted from a shelter. In other words, I'm guessing we're talking about persons on the high side of average in terms of income and purebred dogs that might be worth several thousands of dollars.

With respect to the bite, here's a pretty extensive discussion of NY's dog bite law: http://dogbitelaw.com/mixed-dog-bite-statute-states/new-york-dog-bite-law.html. Note that there is a link at the bottom specifically for dog trainers (although not about the bite issue).

Basically what you're seeking to do is to hold the owners strictly liable. I say that because there was no negligence. The owners disclosed to you what they knew about the dog's history, and you proceeded to take custody of and train the dog anyway. It's not clear to me that strict liability is appropriate under the circumstances you described (because dog bite laws typically address situations in which a dog either is in or has escaped from the owner's custody at the time of the bite). Needless to say, you're way beyond the small claims threshold, so I would recommend a consultation with a local attorney.

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